Finding and Landing a Great Job

The keys to finding and obtaining an interesting and fulfilling job lie within you. If you can articulate these thoughts in your resume and cover letter, you will be able to unlock the door to the job that's right for you. A resume serves two important purposes: first, it focuses you on the job skills and interests you possess, and second, it introduces you to someone who has

Definition of Resume: advertisement for and about you.

probably not met you yet. Its focus is to make such a fine first impression that the individual reading it says, "I would like to meet this person." You have about 27 seconds to make that first impression. Studies have shown that if your resume does not capture the reader's attention in those few seconds, you will most likely not be considered.

You begin by defining those areas in which you are most excited and interested. Then you prepare to write a resume, even if one is not required according to the job application or notice. This preparation includes self-assessment, job market evaluation, contact with the prospective company and more. There are different styles of resumes, and as you create yours, you will need to consider what type makes the best sense for your talents, experience and interests and the job you are hoping to get. Once the resume is completed, you will need to craft cover letters to send with it. It is wise to assemble references from places you have worked and have a list ready to give the potential employer upon their request, which usually occurs at the interview level.

Determining Your Goal

Where we work is one of the most important decisions we make. There is a job that is perfect for you. A job where you are excited each day to to have the priviledge to go there, a place where you feel fulfilled. Look into your past and into your heart to discover the kind of job that makes you happy. If there is such a job in your past, then your task is probably easy find a similar job. If there are no jobs in your past that were exciting and fulfilling, you will have to do deeper exploration.

Look at your previous jobs and figure out which specific tasks you enjoyed most. What did you really like doing? What were you accomplishing when time seemed to fly by? Perhaps this occurred not at a job, but when you were in school or while volunteering. Write these things down. What is important here is to realize and define the tasks you find interesting. Everyone performs better and feels better when they are doing tasks that bring them fulfillment and excitement.

Now that you have identified the times you were happily and fully involved in your work, you will need to decide what skills and information you used to accomplish those tasks. Start another list. This skill list will be most useful if you prioritize the list by starting with the talents you enjoy employing most, and finish with the skills you possess but don't enjoy doing as much.

Armed with your lists, it is time to search the newspaper and other local resources for the job you would like to land. Remember, now is the time to be selfish: look for jobs that would make you happy. If your skills seem so diverse and unconnected that you can't find a job meeting the skill and interest lists you generated earlier, you may need to consult with a job and/or career counselor, resume service or use reference books and other materials. Talk to your friends, too. They may be able to help you assess your talents better than you can. Once you have focused on your objective and a specific job, do some research. Inquire into the company deeply enough to find out the specific job name or title, and the actual person's name who will be doing the hiring. You are now ready to start the resume writing process.

Writing Your Resume

The first step in writing a resume (after determining your objective or goal) is to gather all the pertinent facts. Put together your job history including the names of the companies, the time periods you worked for them, your job titles and any promotions or awards you received during your employment. Be sure to include any volunteer or other unpaid work on this list. Once the list is complete, write down what you loved and hated in each job. Be honest your objective is find and land the perfect job for you, not to massage your or anyone else's ego.

Next, list all the skills employed and experience you gained at each job, no matter how trivial some may seem. Were you responsible for scheduling, hiring or firing? What systems would have broken down if you were not there? Did you answer the phone? Of what accomplishment are you proudest? What new innovation did you devise? Did you implement cost-saving methods? Did you receive any awards or recognitions at this place of work?

The third step is to create a list of your highlights. These are the most important qualities that the prospective employer needs to know you bring to the new position. Be sure to correlate these thoughts with the qualities mentioned in the job advertisements or that you learned about through personal contact with someone at the company. Use three to seven bulleted snapshots of you in this section to list your applicable talents and achievements. Don't forget that you are trying to demonstrate the value you will bring to this new job. If you saved some company $20,000 per year, it might be a good idea to mention it here. These should be brief yet erudite statements that quickly help the reader to get an attractive idea of who you are.

Determining the Type of Resume to Use

Now you need to decide what type of resume is best for you. Again, the resume's central function is to motivate the reader to ask you for an interview . Therefore, it needs to reflect your talents in a positive light while being concise and to the point. If your talents and interests are diverse, you may need to tune a different resume for each job field in which you are interested. In this case, one single resume for all the different job types you are interested in may be easier to produce, but it will be less effective.

Functional Type Resume

If you are a recent graduate or are changing job fields, the best form of resume format for you will probably be the functional type. This style describes you by emphasizing the skills you possess. This type also works well for parents re-entering the job market (running a family involves many skills important to a prospective employer). For the person who uses this form of resume, it is the skills you have developed rather than your experience in the field that will attract the businessperson.

For the functional type, list all of your applicable skills and accomplishments making sure to note where this skill or accomplishment was applied or learned. Then group the list into several logical areas such as computer skills, managerial skills, culinary skills and so on. It is best to have no more than four categories. Under your headings place each statement in order of importance. If you have several accomplishments that are related, it is wise to have a sub-category and then list each item below that. Most employers will want to see your complete employment history in addition to the information above. A simple additional list including dates, position held, company and location will usually suffice.

Reverse Chronological Type Resume

If you are staying in the same or a similar field, you will probably want to use a reverse chronological resume style. This type is more traditional and reflects the consistent track record of the job seeker. Use this style when you have been employed in the same or a related field for a significant and recent part of your employment history. In this type, you will list the applicable jobs you have had, starting with the most recent and going backwards in time. Be sure to point out specific skills gained, cost savings achieved, sales or other goals reached and/or exceeded and other significant accomplishments that occurred at each job.

Starting with the most recent job, state the dates of employment, position held, company name and location. Then in no more than two lines, summarize what you did for the company that is directly applicable to the job you are seeking. Using bullets, highlight other significant accomplishments, awards, skills learned, etc. Continue with this procedure working backwards in time. Prospective employers will be looking for job continuity and steady growth in the field as displayed by rising responsibilities or promotions. It may not be necessary to list every job you have had, but be sure to include all jobs where skills were used that relate in any way to the new job.

How to Produce the Resume

Now you can assemble the parts of your resume. Always place your name and address first and present it in an attractive, bold manner. Next state the objective of the resume, i.e., the job title or position you are seeking, but do not use the word "resume" anywhere (unless you had a job as a resume writer ). Next place your Summary of Qualifications (or Highlights) list. After this for the reverse chronological style, the sequence is usually job history followed by educational background. For recent graduates using the functional type, it may be better to put education next, followed by the skills section and then the brief job list. The logic here is to emphasize the most important and attractive qualities you are bringing to the employer toward the top of the resume. When writing your educational background be sure to include trade schools, special seminars, certificates and degrees you have earned. It is customary, but not required, to put a note at the bottom stating that references are available upon request.

Remember to write your resume with the reader's and the company's interests in mind. Always ask, "How do my skills and talents bring value to this company?" You must be sure every word and sentence in your resume meets this challenge. Remember to analyze everything you put down on your resume to ensure accuracy and that it is written with the prospective reader in mind. It is very important to be brief so try extremely hard to fit all this onto one page. Be sure to go through your spelling very carefully, as one misspelled word may be justification to toss your resume into the round file. If the person reading your resume is busy, as most are, they will initially be looking for reasons to eliminate your application. Don't give them this easily avoided justification.

It is important that your resume be visually appealing to read. Don't try to cram too much information on the page. Resumes with some white space for balance and expansiveness are much more attractive to the reader's eye and more likely to be thoroughly read.

Now you have a DRAFT resume. Take it to friends whose opinions you respect and people who work in fields related to your prospective job. Ask them to seriously read the resume and give you any criticism they can think of. You are not looking for approval of your creation but suggestions that might lead to an improved version. Ask your readers to put themselves in the position of a busy hirer. Do they get a strong and positive image of you? Is it easy to read and attractive? Would they want to meet you for an interview?

Take any feedback you get and decide what you want to incorporate and what you wish to discard. Revise your resume and be sure to spell check it one last time. Use good paper when you print your resume. Be sure to use the same paper, printer and fonts for all the parts of your job seeking package. This consistency looks good to future employers.

The Cover Letter

A well-written cover letter may be as important as the resume. In the process of creating your resume there were probably things you left out when you were fitting it all onto one single page. Some of these items can be incorporated into this letter. The purpose of the cover letter is to be sure the resume goes to the correct person, office or division and to make the person reading it attracted to and more comfortable with you. This is also where you indicate how much you know about the company and how you see yourself fitting in and bringing value to them. You need to prepare for the cover letter by doing some background exploration about the company. At the minimum, call the human resources or personnel staff and find out the specific name to whom the application/resume should be addressed and what are the proper steps to apply for a job. When you are talking to this person, be sure to write down his or her complete name with the proper spelling and the date you called them, as you will use this name and date in your cover letter.

Layout of the Cover Letter

The letter can be broken down into three main components the address block and salutation, the body, and the signature closure. It is best to use a business format for the letter, such as block left where all paragraphs are flush left and are not indented but separated by blank lines.

The address block starts with your name and address and then the date. Next follows the name of the person to whom you are sending the letter and their address. Following is the salutation which reads, "Dear Mr./Mrs./Ms. So and So,". Be sure to spell the name correctly and include any titles they want. NEVER send a cover letter to "To Whom It May Concern". Try to avoid sending it to unnamed people in the Human Resources Department or whichever department is responsible for this phase of hiring. It is always best to inquire into the company deeply enough to find out the actual person's name and his or her preferred addressing format.

The body of the letter also usually consists of three parts: the opening, your qualifications and a closing. In the opening it is a good idea to name the specific job in which you are interested, describe how you found out about the job, and, if possible, mention someone's name in or known to the company (at least use the name and date you wrote down when you contacted them earlier). Show in this opening you know something about the company, that you have researched them somewhat, and are thoughtful about this job's meaning to them. The qualifications portion allows you to amplify on some of your resume's statements, include additional material that didn't fit into the resume, and indicate how you see yourself fitting into this specific company. Be very positive and avoid the use of passive voice. The last part, the closing, is where you reiterate your interest and excitement about this job opportunity. Also, include a line indicating that additional information is available anytime from you. Choose a time a few days to a week after you expect them to receive this mailing and indicate that you will call them to see how things are going, find out your status, see if additional information is needed, etc.

The signature closure is best if kept simple, such as just "Sincerely," and then, a few lines below, place your typed name. Be sure to leave the appropriate amount of space for your best signature. When you sign the letter, use a comfortable, well-functioning, bold pen and sign your name with your finest penmanship. Your signature says a lot about you. Be sure to sign the letter. Fifty percent of cover letters arrive without a signature. Guess what happens to those letters and resumes.

The Reference List

Reference lists, which should not normally be sent with the resume, need to include at least three and probably not more than six names. For each name you should include how the individual is related to you, i.e., supervisor, manager, coworker, etc. It is best not to include any that are "personal" references. Be sure to obtain each and every one's permission to use them as a reference. After listing their relationship to you, list their position in their company, the name and address of the company and the phone number(s) at which they are willing to be reached. For each number, indicate whether this is a business or home phone.

Summing Up

Bear in mind that these ideas are tested and work, but by no means should they be considered written in stone. Perhaps a unique style or a combination of resume styles would work better for you. Maybe your background is mostly school and not much job then put the education portion earlier in the resume. If you are an artist or graphics designer, you may want to spiff up the layout and use an avant garde approach. Newspaper people might try two columns to emulate a newspaper spread. Use your imagination. Consider this page the starting point, not necessarily the destination.

Even if you need to seek out a professional resume writer, you will save money and time and end up with a superior product if you follow these guidelines. Remember to make your package as specific as possible, even though a generic, generalized resume and cover letter may seem more attractive (since you can then shotgun scatter them all over the place). Unfortunately this is not an arena where the simple numbers of multiple mailings mean much. Careful, well-thought out packages aimed at a specific employer are much more effective. Put yourself in the position of the employer reading a generic resume and one that is focused on his or her needs. Which would command your attention? Besides, it is only one job you want isn't it?

Relax, take your time, and expect to learn quite a bit about yourself in the process of creating an attractive job-winning resume and cover letter. Good luck!

Riley Works

If you need assistance creating an effective and powerful job-landing package, send us an email. We have worked with people from all over of the world (English only). However, be aware that the best way to find a fulfilling job is not through our services; it is through networking with friends and acquaintances. Be sure to let everyone know you are looking for an exciting new job. If you would like help in assuring that your resume and cover letter meet the challenge of today's job market, just give us a call or send an email and we'll be happy to take a look a what you have prepared or help you start from scratch.

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